Is there such a thing as loyalty nowadays? I know I’m a good boss to my employees. I develop my direct reports and I expect them to develop also their direct reports. I think of what’s good for them. Despite these, however, I observe that most of my employees are not enthusiastic about their work; they do their duties because they “have to” not because they “want to”. I get the feeling that they are on the lookout for a better job offer elsewhere and then get out. This frustrates me because I want my employees to be loyal to the organization and also to me. What can I do?
Ms. Loyalty Trademark
You are frustrated that your employees: 1) are not enthused about their job as much as you are about yours; 2) do not show signs of being work engaged; 3) are just waiting for an opportunity to get a better job elsewhere. For the things you are doing for them, e.g. developing them and looking our for their welfare, you expect them to be grateful to you by being loyal to the organization and to you.
Most of what you say about your employees are all perceptions i.e., your interpretation of their behaviors which are colored by your biases, expectations, needs and values. This is true to all of us. In my Ask Your Career Counselor advice, published in the Job Market section of the Sunday Inquirer, July 5, 2009, in the Working People, page 4, I defined employee engagement as one in which the employee is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about his or her work. He/she feels a strong emotional bond to the organization they work for, and feel connected to the company that values their contribution
Researches have cited five factors as causing employee disengagement: (1) job dissatisfaction because there is no job-person fit; (2) employees don’t see how their jobs contribute to their section’s, department’s and organization’s goals; (3) lack of feedback and coaching from their supervisors; (4) incompetent and poorly trained supervisors/managers; and (5) employees are not given opportunities for growth and development.
Research has also shown that the one most important factor that contributes to employee engagement is a strong supervisor-employee relationship. This is rated higher than “opportunities to excel”, “good work-life balance” and “competitive compensation”.
To validate your perceptions, I suggest you spend time to talk to each one of your direct reports and ask broad questions to show your interest in them. Questions like:
1. Are you happy with your work? Probe further with: What is it about your job that you like? What can be improved? How can you improve it? How do you want me to help you?
2. How do you see yourself growing in our company? What career path do you have in mind? How do you want me to help you?
3. How can we improve our systems and procedures? What should I do more of? What should I do less of?
In doing this one-on-one conversation, it is important that your verbal and non-verbal behavior (i.e., what you say and how you say it) are conductive to their opening up. Keep silence as you listen with interest to their responses. You will learn much about them and about you from them. However, getting information from your employees is one thing; acting on their feedback is another. It’s important for open communication that they are not afraid of any negative backlash, resulting from what they say.
Self-awareness. There is so much that you need to know about yourself, your attitudes and behaviors when you interact with your employees that could point the way for you to improve. If they do not open up to you, are fearful or hesitant to approach you, etc., these are signs that you might possibly are directive, task-oriented and controlling despite your good intentions to be a “good boss”, and a good coach. Intentions and actions are two different things. As the author Aldous Huxley wrote: “If most of us remain ignorant of ourselves, it is because self-knowledge is painful and we prefer the pleasure of illusion”
No doubt you know that loyalty is never deserved; it is earned. Loyalty is strongly driven by the connections employees and managers feel with one another at work. Building loyal relationships professionally and personally always begins with honest and valid self-assessment. Improving connections with others invariably begins with improving oneself as a leader, as a manager, as a colleague, and as an employee.
Instead of being concerned about gaining your employees’ loyalty, I suggest you concentrate your efforts on building strong positive relationships with your employees. Research from time immemorial has shown that the most productive, most innovative teams within companies are built on strong relationships. Even satisfaction with and happiness at work are in large part a function of the bonds at work.
Building a loyalty-driven organization doesn’t just happen. It requires questioning some practices of managers, being open to self-confrontation on their part, and changing some long standing behaviors.
Believe me, change must always start with the boss, or the leader. It’s always a top-down approach.
Get and Give Feedback. It is just as important that you get feedback from your colleagues/peers, from your own manager on how they see to be your areas for improvement. Thank them for their feedback.
When you coach an employee, it is for the purpose of helping her/him become a winner and contribute to team victory. Give credit to the contribution of each person in your team, not merely to the success of the whole team. One of the strategies to getting employees engaged is when each one sees how he/she has contributed to the success of the team in achieving a goal.
Positive feedback always has great impact when it is personalized and specific. Look at your employee straight in the eye, smile, shake his/her hand and say with a tone of sincerity, “I am so happy with the way you responded to Mr. Customer’s objection about the higher price of our product. You were so convincing!” Or, “I am very proud about the way you got Dr. X to prescribe our product. When I was covering him as a Med Rep, I couldn’t get him to prescribe our product. But you did it! Congratulations!” Then follow this up with a written memo of congratulations for his/her achievement, forwarding a copy to your own boss and to your employee’s 201 file. How do you think their affirmation will impact your employee? What a boost this will be to a strong positive relationship between you. Sad to say many Filipino managers are remiss in the area of affirmation and recognition. Is it because they don’t experience receiving it themselves?
My advice is for you to develop strong positive relationship with your employees. Their loyalty to you and to your organization will follow.
God bless you.
Josie O. Santamaria